One of the most disturbing aspects of New York Citys housing environment is the large number of renters who spend the majority of their income on rent. According to the most commonly cited data, over 500,000 of the citys households devote at least one-half of their gross income to rental payments on their apartments.

While such figures are often quoted by housing advocates, there has been relatively little analysis of the high rent-burden population. For some households, high rent-to-income ratios may be a temporary condition resulting from short-term unemployment or other disturbances to income. For others, it may be a long-term but sustainable situation that reflects their life-cycle circumstances. For still others, very high rent burdens may signify a perilous housing status that portends homelessness or other serious family disruptions.

In order to effectively target housing policies and to identify dangerous gaps in the social safety net, it is important to analyze carefully the high-burden population and their housing circumstances. To do so, CHPC utilized data from the New York City Housing and Vacancy Survey (HVS) for 1993, 1996 and 1999.